Share this story

UMass Chan medical student inspired by ophthalmology research

Evan Bilsbury knew he wanted to be a doctor from a young age, after enduring the loss of his infant brother and witnessing the support that had been provided to his family by the child’s medical team during months of treatment.

“I remember when he would go into the hospitals to get evaluated and have procedures done, I was admiring the doctors,” said Bilsbury, whose brother, Nathan, died at 9 months as result of a congenital heart defect and other complications. “Even though I was very young at that time, I saw the impact they had on my family and wanted to emulate that. A lot later in my life I realized, hey, they’re humans, too. I strive to be like that as well and have the impact that they had on my family with other families.”

Bilsbury is a second-year medical student in the T.H. Chan School of Medicine. In addition to offering compassion, he hopes to help patients with speech impediments, as he has dealt with a stutter since childhood.

“I have this dream where I see a kid who has a stutter and I’m a doctor and I can kind of help him in that way,” he said.

Bilsbury has bachelor’s degrees in psychology and biology from Pennsylvania State University, where he minored in chemistry. He got involved in research related to psychology and neurology during his undergraduate career.

“I kind of wanted to be a talk therapist and work with clients that way. Then I got more interested in the biology of the brain and that kind of led me down a new path,” he said.

When he started his studies at UMass Chan, he got involved in ophthalmology research—learning how the eye connects to the brain and how the retina works—and quickly fell in love with the field. He spent time during his first year working in a lab focused on gene therapy and retinitis pigmentosa, a disorder that causes childhood blindness, researching molecular pathways that lead to illness. Currently, he works in a lab focused on ocular gene therapy and macular degeneration with Haijiang Lin, MD, PhD, associate professor of ophthalmology & visual sciences.

Bilsbury volunteers at the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, where he’s paired up with someone with a visual impairment to help them with everyday tasks such as shopping or reading mail.

He is also passionate about music. He plays guitar, bass, piano and drums, and he composes. (One of the songs he composed is featured in the video above.) He said he’d love to connect his love for music to his career.

The Student Spotlight series features UMass Chan Medical School students in the Morningside Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Tan Chingfen Graduate School of Nursing and T.H. Chan School of Medicine. For more information about UMass Chan Medical School and how to apply, visit the Prospective Students page.

Related stories on UMassMed News:
UMass Medical School launches ophthalmology residency program
MD student examines social determinants of health screening tools in emergency departments